This website is dedicated to promoting the German Heritage of Ellis County, Kansas and features the attractions, events, festivals and other cultural activities that involve our German traditions which have been passed down from one generation to next.
On August 25, 2003, two national German organizations
recognized Ellis County as the official German Capital of Kansas.
Ellis County has always had a strong German Heritage and a history of German traditions that dates back to 1876. On September 20, 2003, a ceremony was held during the Midwest Deutsche Oktoberfest that proclaimed Ellis County as the official German Capital of Kansas. This important event in the history of Ellis County was held during the opening ceremonies of the annual Oktoberfest. Local politicians, community leaders and officers of the Midwest Deutsche Oktoberfest Association attended the ceremony.
Two national German organizations recognized Ellis County as the German Capital of Kansas. Now the German Heritage of the Ellis County communities has become more well known by other residents of Kansas and visitors to the Sunflower State. The Germans from Russia Heritage Society and the Bukovina Society of the Americas provided letters of support and certificates to endorse this title for Ellis County. In a letter of support from Aloys Feist, the president of the Germans from Russia Heritage Society, noted, “The annual ethnic German events and community celebrations far exceed those of any other counties in Kansas”. The Germans from Russia Heritage Society is a national organization with headquarters in Bismark, North Dakota. Its purpose is to bring people together who are interested in discovering the common history unique to Germanic Russian ethnic groups and to preserve the many elements of their rich heritage. The society serves its membership in various ways including educational and social opportunities, research, publications and historical preservation. Membership information is available by contacting the society at:GRHS - 1125 W. Turnpike Ave - Bismark, ND 58501-8115.
Many of the citizens of Ellis County and surrounding communities are descendants of German immigrants who came from the Volga River region of Russia. These settlers were people who migrated from Germany to Russia following the end of the Seven Years War in 1763. In October and November of 1875, many of these immigrants left their villages along the Volga River and traveled to Saratov, Russia to begin their journey to America. The first Volga Germans arrived in Hays in the middle of February 1876. The communities of Catherine, Herzog, Pfeifer, Munjor, and Schoenchen were settled during the spring and summer of 1876.
Another group of German immigrants arrived in Ellis, Kansas from what was known as Bukovina, which is currently part of Romania and the Ukraine. These settlers were people who migrated from Germany to Bukovina in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. After one to two generations of living in Bukovina, land became scarce and many of the German immigrants came to the United States as well as Canada and South America. In 1886, the first Bukovina Germans arrived in Ellis, Kansas and acted as scouts for a larger group that settled there in 1887.
The Bukovina Society of the Americas also provided letters of support and certificates endorsing the ceremony that proclaimed Ellis County as the German Capital of Kansas. “We whole-heartedly endorse this activity for the continued promotion of our German traditions, music, food and language for future generations to be proud of”. The Board of Directors of the Bukovina Society attended the opening ceremonies to sign and present the certificates to the officers of the Midwest Deutsche Oktoberfest Association.
The Midwest Deutsche Oktoberfest was held as an annual celebration of the local German traditions, food and music. It was organized by Leo Dorzweiler and was held for 10 years at the Ellis County Fairgrounds. In the spring of 2011, the Dorzweiler family also held a cancer fundraiser for their beloved Harold Dorzweiler who passed away on September 23, 2010 after a long battle with cancer. Harold was the band leader of the local polka band – The Country Dutchman. The 1st Annual Harold Dorzweiler Cancer Memorial Polka Fest was such a huge success that it was decided to move it to the third weekend of September. Harold and the Country Dutchman were such a big part of the Midwest Deutsche Oktoberfest, that it seemed only fitting to move the event held in his honor to the middle of September. Now, the polka fest cancer fundraiser held to honor Harold, will also continue the tradition of local residents being able to gather and enjoy good polka music and our great Ellis County style German food. For more information about the Annual Harold Dorzweiler Cancer Memorial Polka Fest, see the calendar of events section.
We invite you to celebrate the German Heritage of our area and experience the customs, language and music of our German ancestors. There are many events held each year in our communities in Ellis County that promote our German Heritage with festivals, polka music, presentations, entertainment activities, games and wonderful German food.
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Photo credits: Big John’s Saloon, Bukovina Musuem, Dickinson Ranch, Susan Dinges, Viola Dorzweiler, Ellis County Historical Society Museum, Wayne Gottschalk, Steven Hausler, Herzog Fest Committee, Greg Hillyer, Jerry Kanzenbach, Jackie Langholz, Kevin McCarter, Patty Nicholas, Daniel Olson, Ilona Patterson, Larry Reichert, Maurice Rohr/Lazy H Ranch, Kevin Rupp, Ruben Schuckman, St. Boniface Church, St. Catherine Church, St. Fidelis Church, Victoria Lumber Company, Mitch Weber/FHSU CTELT, Connie Windholz